58. Mark 14:53-72

A trumped-up trial matches the over-the-top squad sent to arrest Jesus and testifies to the overall questionability of the whole action against him. False testimony against Jesus was given and received, false testimony that was inconsistent at that.

Finally the high priest imperiously demands some answer from Jesus for all this (inconsistent) witness against him. Jesus still refuses to answer. The high priest persists: “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” (v.61).

-“are you the Messiah?” is the very same statement Peter makes in his confession or faith in ch.8 (“you are the Messiah”) cast as a question. We know Peter’s witness is true there. Thus we know that Jesus will answer the high priest’s question in the affirmative.

-the high priest’s unwitting testimony to the truth of Jesus’ identity is matched by Peter now languishing in the courtyard waiting to deny Jesus!

-“Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”

“When he adds ‘The son of the Blessed One’, this doesn’t mean he is thinking that the Messiah will be God’s son in the later Christian sense. ‘Son of God’, as we have seen, is an honorific title for the Messiah, and had been since the Psalms at least. But for Mark, and for Christian readers since, this phrase forms a transition to Jesus’ shocking reply – as well as a link with the very beginning of the gospel, where the voice from heaven, repeated at the transfiguration, assures Jesus, and then the disciples, that this is indeed who he really is” (Wright, Mark, 252).

“Jesus said, “I am; and ‘you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,’ and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven.’” There it is. Finally, something the high priest can use! Jesus is not here simply claiming to be divine. That is an anachronistic reading. Rather, it’s his use of Psa. 110 (Mark 12.36) and Dan.7.13 (Mark 13.26) plus his assertion of being vindicated and exalted packed into his favorite self-designation “Son of Man” that creates the opportunity for the high priest to bring charges of sedition and blasphemy against him. “At last the masks are off, the secrets are out, the cryptic sayings and parables are left behind. The son of man stands before the official ruler of Israel, declaring that God will prove him in the right, and the court in the wrong” (Wright, Mark, 252).

“Blasphemy!” cries the high priest. And he tears his robe in witness. The court agrees. Jesus is sentenced to death. And the abuse begins.

The scene shifts back to Peter in the courtyard. A servant-girl three times accuses Peter of being with Jesus. He first claims not to understand this charge. And the cock crows for the first time. The servant-girl then tells others that Peter was one of Jesus’ followers. He denies it this time. Then the other take up the charge and Peter angrily denies it with a curse and an oath. And the cock crows again, the second time.

And Peter remembers Jesus’ prophecy. And that, crushingly, it has just come true! Small wonder he dissolved into tears.

On why God allowed a great future leader of the church to undergo a catastrophic failure of faith, Gregory the Great explains:

“Why did almighty God permit the one he had placed over the whole church to be frightened by the voice of a maidservant, and even to deny Christ himself? This we know was a great dispensation of the divine mercy, so that he who was to be the shepherd of the church might learn through his own fall to have compassion on others. God therefore first shows him to himself, and then places him over others: to learn through his own weakness how to bear mercifully with the weakness of others” (cited in Placher, Mark: 4422-4426).


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